Italy, Germany and France, faced with Putin’s aggression and crimes, cannot support any of his war aims as that would be a total rejection of European values. Their elites know where public opinion is at and what the United States thinks, so they will never propose Ukraine give up any of its territory.
The problem they all have is that the continuation of the war is hurting their long term interests. They were relying on cheap energy and are afraid of mass migration from Africa if famine hits as a result of a shortage of Ukrainian grain.
They also worry about the fact that this war is making the U.S. and the U.K. more important, thereby minimizing the role of France in Europe and the world. The French jealously guard their supposed superpower status — this is why Macron keeps calling Putin and is trying to persuade Zelensky to be flexible on giving up territory.
It is also why German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is demanding a ceasefire rather than Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. It is also the reason why Politico has suggested that the leaders of Italy, Germany and France fear a Ukrainian military victory, as it would mean a humiliation for Russia.
This rings serious alarm bells in Warsaw.
Ukraine will not heed these pleas as long as it is mobilizing and getting the weapons it needs. Poles and the Baltic states reject any attempt to help Putin save face as they fear they could find themselves next in the firing line — in other words, it is their interests and territories which could be given up next to satisfy Russia.
This kind of transactional approach to peace was used by the appeasers in the 1930s, and even by Hitler when he gave up half of Polish territory to get a pact with the USSR in 1939.
Poland and other parts of Central Europe have often been very much a part of such a transactional zone — this is what happened at the end of World War II.
It has not gone away even now that the region is in NATO and the European Union. In 2014, during the Crimea crisis, Germany and France were prepared to do deals with Moscow above Polish heads and ignoring Polish interests.
It is becoming crystal clear that the interests of the U.S., U.K. and Central Europe are diverging from those of Western Europe. Germany and France both want Russia to remain as a counterweight to U.S. power whereas the U.S. wants it to be so weakened that it no longer becomes a worthwhile ally for China.
Poland wants Russia to be cast off to Asia so that Poland no longer sits in the transactional zone. That would mean the underpinning of both prosperity and security for Poland. Victory for Ukraine would offer Poland even more than membership of NATO and the EU ever has.
But should the war end in a compromise, Russia would have an opportunity to regroup and put Poland and Central Europe in the transactional zone yet again.